The Simpsons series got a shakeup several years ago when FOX replaced Alf Clausen as composer on the hit series, a role he had occupied for 27 years. Three years ago he was let go from that position, but last year he sued Disney (which now owns The Simpsons as part of their deal with 21st Century Fox), saying that the firing was because of age discrimination. In newly revealed court documents, however, Fox and Simpson's executives say that the firing had nothing to do with Clausen's age or his diagnosis of Parkinson's (which was also part of the original filing), but was instead based on Clausen handing off parts of his Simpsons workload to other people, including his son Scott Clausen (via THR).
An amended complaint from Clausen filed earlier this month states that he was let go because of his age and his diagnosis with Parkinson's' disease. Clausen also says that Hanz Zimmer's company, who replaced him on the show, is making music "inferior in quality, depth, range, and sound, yet stylistically similar in substance." Essentially they are copying him and doing it poorly.
Fox recalls things far differently though, with things starting to go south in 2011. That's when the show instituted pay reductions, and at the time they were considering replacing Clausen and his live orchestra with synthesizers and more computer-generated music. They were paying him about $12,000 an episode plus royalties, so this would be a substantial savings.
That didn't end up happening, but Clausen came up again when it came time for the episode The Great Phatsby. Empire producer Jim Beanz was brought in to guest star for the episode but was also helping to produce the music, though it was understood that Clausen would still be doing the majority of the music. Simpsons producer James L. Brooks wasn't a fan of what was being handed in, however, and went to Simpsons producer Richard Sakai. In a declaration in the documents, Sakai said "Brooks questioned whether Clausen was the right person to prepare rap music and questioned his work more generally."
"Around that time, I learned that Clausen had been delegating some of the work of composing music for The Simpsons to others, including his son Scott Clausen," Sakai said. "I believed his unauthorized delegation was unacceptable. I called showrunner [Al] Jean and told him that Clausen had been delegating his composing work; he conveyed to me that he was surprised and disturbed as well."
A meeting was then held that included Brooks, Sakai, Jean, and Simpsons showrunner Matt Selman about Clausen handing off work to his son and others, with Sakai stating "We decided that we could improve the music on the show by replacing him.
Now it's up to the courts to decide if this lawsuit will continue through or be stopped in its tracks.
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